hi. we've had several inflatables in the family as my boys progressed in their boating skills and for friends to use on float trips etc. here's my 2 cents worth. spend the extra money. your whole day can be killed constantly pumping up a cheap boat that springs a leak. comfort, stability, the fun factor all figure in. people who use inflatables need a positive experience to enhance their future river love.
in my opinion an aire lynx is about the best you can buy. strong, stable, hard, comfortable, good valves and worth the extra bucks. as close to a hardshell in performance as you can get in an open boat. i like the bladder system. we've had people with no river experience do just fine going down the san juan and deso and parts of the colorado.
we've had a nrs maver2k for many seasons. it's okay. small tubes make it a wet ride and for some reason folks who paddle it just don't take to it. it repairs easy, the valves are good. its a great downriver craft. lots of commercial outfitters use them though.
before he developed a bomber roll my older boy used a sevlor riverX. they come with pegs, thigh straps, etc. for the money it's a good deal. we picked ours up for around $300. but, we've also had leaky valve problems, one bad bladder they required a full boat replacement, and they skin up easy. i think they have to much keel but they do paddle well on the flats. its not a long term investment. as someone posted, the valves leave much to be desired. very stiff if you can keep the air in it. surfs well, maneuvers good, hard enough to punch big stuff. but they are nothing close to an aire.
some friends of ours used two different boats on long trips, and they loved the hyside 1k. big tubes. stable. stiff. comfortable. on another trip they used a jacks plastic something or other and didn't cotton to it at all. in the hyside they ran westwater with style. in the jacks they swam skull. which isn't running down jpw. i have one of their cats and love it.
there u go.